A:N Welcome! This is my first story, a retelling of the beautiful film How to Train Your Dragon. I hope you enjoy my take on it.
A message to established readers: If these early chapters seem a bit different, it's because I fixed a slew of grammatical and structural errors. I didn't change any plot points, though, so don't worry about that.
My name is Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, and this is my journal. I know, it seems strange for a 'slash first, ask questions never' Viking to write his thoughts out and carry them with him, but I'm no ordinary Viking. In fact, other than blood I'm not really a Viking at all. I can't lift a hammer, I can't swing an axe, and the first time I ever tried to actually do something as the apprentice of Gobber the Belch, our local Blacksmith, I managed to cut off his right foot. Lucky for me, a dragon had already done that to him years prior, so he just attached a spare peg and smacked me upside the head.
No, I'm not a Viking. So I don't feel weird keeping a journal. To be honest I'm surprised I didn't do this earlier, but I suppose it has to do with my fear of being considered weird. I mean, I am weird. Really weird. Anyone will tell you that. But I've embraced it a little. Enough to carry this book around with me, at least. Which is a good thing, too, because other than loving to draw, and being able to do it anywhere, I have far too many ideas floating around in my head to keep track of them all. So here I am, writing them down as I walk through the forests of Berk. My house may be empty, what with my father gone on yet another expedition to find the dragon's nest and all, but I prefer being outside. When I'm at home, people tend to know. When I'm lost in the forest they secretly hope I don't come back out, but at least they leave me be.
Speaking of Dragon expeditions, this one was supposed to be a big one. The last major attempt during Berk's 'warm' season to find their nest and take it so we could finally be rid of them. Gobber, my father's closest friend and confidant, somehow managed to convince him to change the huge fleet of warships to one single scouting ship. It probably had something to do with how many boats we've lost as well as many provisions we still have, despite the raids. Really, though, I think Gobber's just sick of building new boats.
It's been quite a long time since we've seen such a nice day on Berk. the skies are cloudless and there's actually a nice breeze blowing over the island. It's the end of spring, and even though it's only a few degrees above freezing it's still a lovely day for anyone used to living in an arctic wasteland. The dawn air is clear and crisp and even though there's always the chance for the weather to turn horrible in a moment, I have a feeling today is going to be a pretty decent day. After a changing of clothes and grabbing a basket of fish, I made my way down to my own private hiding spot from the village: Toothless Cove.
I can't find it on any maps of the island, and no one ever bothers going to the part of the forest it resides in. Of course, I'm grateful for that; it's hard not to be grateful for it when its your only solace from glares, taunts and sometimes(all the time when Snotlout is involved) physical violence. I may be the Chief's son, but that doesn't stop me from being the butt of everyone's jokes or being beaten on for being little. 'It'll toughen the little runt up' they say. It's not like it could be possibly causing any deep-rooted psychological problems that I cover up with sarcasm and dry wit. No, that couldn't possibly be a side effect at all.
Passing through trees, I keep checking to make sure I'm alone. I've wandered these woods for years, so finding multiple routes to my destination isn't a difficult task. It's also nice to know I can shake off pretty much anyone who'd bother following me. Not that anyone ever would, but still, the precaution is understandable, considering what I'm hiding. I'd really hate to see how that one would turn out if anyone found out about him.
Our island, like many in the area, have pest problems. Very big, angry, dragon-sized pest problems. Being who we are, that is to say Vikings, we opted to declare war on the beasts rather than move somewhere a little less inhospitable. I'd always questioned this stubbornness as a child, and it was always met with the same response: 'We're Vikings. It's an occupational hazard.' We were too stubborn to move, and the dragons obviously weren't going anywhere, so we fought with them over our resources. Despite them stealing from us, I no longer wanted to fight them(not that I ever could to begin with), but everyone else in my village still does. I knew I had to figure out how to end the fighting and somehow show my village that there was a better way for us to rid ourselves of the dragons beyond continuing a three-hundred year war. The problem I knew I'd have with that idea was that it meant I'd be coming up with a plan of some sort, and considering my luck it'd probably backfire. After all, my official title in the village isn't 'Hiccup the Useless' for nothing.
As for why I don't want to fight dragons? Simple, really: my only real friend in the 15 years I've spent on this planet and only resident of Toothless Cove doesn't like to fight dragons, either. He's convinced me they're not as evil and heartless as we think they are, but no one else on this island would share our viewpoint, so I've been keeping his existence a secret. I also made sure to enter the Cove from different ends of the forest from day to day, trying my best to avoid having anyone find out. Sometimes I had to hide, and today was no different. Walking and writing at the same time may dull one's senses, but the telltale 'thunk' of an axe hitting a tree told me to keep out of sight. This was something I'd always been pretty good at, considering I'd been doing it for as long as I could remember. Closing my journal and tucking it away inside my bearskin vest, I slowly looked around the tree I'd been hiding behind. Training with her axe off in the distance, not one hundred feet from my position, is Astrid.
Astrid. Beautiful, wonderful Astrid.
I saw her rip her axe from a large oak tree and hurl it in a random direction away from me. I knew she didn't like me, since pretty much everyone in the village didn't. But I didn't have any intention of saying hello, or even making my presence known. I just stood behind that old tree, looking at her intensely. Her face was dripping with sweat, her brow furrowed in both frustration and concentration. It's a look I'd seen on her a lot, but I knew better than to ignore a mask when I saw one. I wear one in Berk every day, made of a dry sarcasm. It covers up how I really feel about being an outcast in my own tribe.
I sat there, wondering what she was hiding. I wondered why she'd hide it. And the whole time I was there, I couldn't deny a tug in my heart to go over to her and ask her if she was alright. But I knew that'd just end in her hitting me with something and storming off before I got a chance to really say anything. Call me a fool, but even though she's hated me since we were children, I like seeing her happy, which is pretty rare these days. All she ever does now is ready herself for Dragon Training.
Originally, my father, Stoick the Vast, Chief of our tribe, had planned on having new recruits trained in the Dragon Kill Ring while some of his best men went with him to Helheim's Gate, the barrier of mist that hides Dragon Island. Despite knowing that most of these convoys never come back ('It's an occupational hazard' echoing through my mind) he was still determined to find the nest. Again, Gobber managed to convince him to take just a small scouting boat. He also managed to convince my father to push Dragon Training back until after he'd returned, because I'd be taking classes this year and Dad wanted to keep an eye on me. Wonderful.
Pushing my thoughts from my head, I eventually pried my wanting eyes away from the only person in this world who can make me genuinely smile and continued to my destination. Within a few minutes I'd reached the bottom of Toothless Cove with my fish basket slung over my shoulder. I opened and upended it, revealing its slimy, fishy contents. I made to call for my friend when I was lightly pounced to the ground from behind. A happy purr and the sight of big, scaly legs pinning me down told me I didn't need to bother with trying to look for him. But then again, his hearing and sense of smell are pristine, so I'd had a feeling he knew I was coming. After all, he's dragon; the same dragon I shot down during the last raid we had; the same dragon I could've killed, but didn't; the same dragon that could have killed ME, but didn't; and the same dragon who, against all of his conventional wisdom, let a Viking get close enough to him to call him a friend. When our strange 'relationship' started, we were distant and wary. He'd watch me from afar, but when I'd try to get closer to him I'd fail miserably. We finally broke through our own defenses, though, and managed to forge a small bond. Over the last month that bond has grown into a inescapable chain that I would do anything to keep from breaking.
It's a good thing no one is ever going to bother reading this journal but me. Even Snotlout would find it too boring to make fun of. Though, I've never been sure he can read well, or at all. Even so, if someone who can read were to find this, I wouldn't just be exiled. I'd probably be forced to watch my best friend get murdered in front of my entire village, and then they'd probably kill me afterwards. But if lost Toothless, I really don't think I'd care. Ironically, in this one instance its a good thing no one notices me; it keeps my only friend safe.
"Hey, good morning there, bud," I said, my face turned down to the ground. "I Hope you slept well. If you haven't noticed," I gestured forward with my left hand, the only limb that hasn't been pinned to the ground, "I only left to bring you breakfast. And I'd really appreciate it if you'd get off of me before you start eating it because I can't feel my legs."
Toothless gave me a dragon laugh, hovering off of me gracefully, allowing me to stand back up and admire the beautiful creature. Pulling my journal back out and jotting down some things about Astrid from earlier (like how her hair would glow in the morning sunlight, or those beautiful bangs that covered her left eye, or her... I'll just stop there. I'm not writing... any more of 'that' down). I pushed it from my head and started making more notes on Toothless. A graceful muscular body, extremely powerful wings, fire proof black scales (Maybe I'll make a tunic out of the scales he sheds some day. Might not be a bad idea) and extremely emotive, yellow-green, catlike eyes. He's also the size of a small boat and can carry a pretty decent payload when he flies, which obviously would include me. I felt a pang of guilt surge through me as I glanced down his long, elegant tail. It's missing one of its tailfins, meaning he has no chance of flying without help. That happens to be my fault and my fault alone.
My father's had me in the forge since I can remember, trying to keep me out of harm's way. He also said it would keep me from causing trouble and give me something to do for the village that's actually useful, since someone as scrawny and useless as I am is never going to kill a dragon by himself. But that was the past, and the contraptions I used to build to kill dragons no longer exist. I scrapped them all in a saddened rage when I realized I'd used one of them to badly injure my only friend. Albeit I would have no friends if I hadn't done what I did, but that still hadn't excused what I did to him. I'm just glad he doesn't hold it against me. I sighed and put my journal away again, making my way over to the dragon. I placed my hand on his side and began rubbing it lightly. Toothless crooned at this, pushing his body into my hand without even thinking about it.
"You know, Toothless, I may never completely forgive myself for hurting you, but at the very least I can help you fly again. I just feel guilty, is all. But you know that. I had to hurt you to gain your friendship, but it still doesn't feel right." the Night Fury looked from the fish and then to me, and then turned completely to look at me. Purring softly, he butted his nose against my stomach and began to rub it gently. Through his purrs I could almost hear the words 'you know I forgive you.'
"Thanks, Toothless." I dusted myself off, looking at the 'ferocious' Night Fury eyeballing the cache of fish I'd brought him. He eyed it as though it was the most precious gift he'd ever received. After an entire five minutes of gorging himself on a random assortment of fish, Toothless belched appreciatively. Blowing the smell of saltwater and slime out of my face, I lied down with my head against his large, scaly side. He started a small fire near us and pushed a fish to me he hadn't eaten. I was about to insist I wasn't hungry, but Toothless, being the dragon he is, saw through my lie pretty easily. He looked at the fish and made a slight gurgling sound, and before I knew it I had the thing skewered and roasting over our little fire pit. He knows I don't really care about eating all that much, but he tends to mother me. He's such an emotive creature; every day something else about him fascinates me.
What fascinates me most is that it seems all dragons can be this way. They're very smart, caring and loyal creatures. The Terrible Terrors, tiny dragons that come in a rainbow of colors and act very much like cats (if cats could fly and breathe fire) like to act tough, but they also love nuzzling, cuddling and a good scratch behind the ear. But then again, so does Toothless, so it could very well be a dragon thing. Now, Terrors aren't terribly smart; arguably the slowest, mentally, of all of the dragons. But they're still smart enough to communicate with humans. These creatures never cease to fascinate me.
We sat there for a while, not really doing much. I'd already told him about the raid, the night I shot him down, and how I'm treated in the village because of my attempts to help. How I used the forge late at night to build the prosthetic tailfin and riding tack we use to cleave through the skies; Telling Gobber I was just 'melting down my past mistakes' when he asked me why the forge was still so hot in the mornings afterward. I've even mentioned the group of kids I used to call friends. In truth, though, ever since my mother died when I was eight, I haven't had any friends at all. Except for Toothless, of course. I turned my head to his, and when I did I noticed a look in his eyes. I'm beginning to think he can sense my emotions, because he looks as sad as I feel.
"Sometimes... Sometimes I wonder exactly when it happened. When I and the rest of the kids my age were all toddlers, we were all really friendly with one another. I don't remember much from those days, but a few things do stick out in my head: learning to read the Dragon Manual with Fishlegs, successfully keeping the twins from ripping each other apart even when their own parents couldn't, actually getting along with my older cousin Snotlout, and of course, spending time with Astrid."
I sighed and took a bite of my fish. As much as I try to fight it, thinking about Astrid just made me hurt. I can't exactly tell where, it just hurt somewhere in my chest. Everywhere, actually. It's a dull, stabbing ache that refuses to go away for most any reason. I can usually only get it to go away with the help of Toothless, who's eyeing me pensively, drawn into the story I'd been telling him.
"Her mother and mine were both Shieldmaidens. They also happened to be childhood friends, which ultimately meant that no matter what kind of kids they'd have, the two would be very close. Sometimes they even joked about having them married if the two were boy and girl, a point my mom liked to bring up around me whenever she noticed I wasn't feeling very happy. Looking back, the reason she always told me that was because she knew how I felt about Astrid before I did." Toothless continued to stare at me, a small smile curling at the edges of his mouth. Bittersweet, almost.
"Yeah. Even back then I was in love with her. I never told anyone, though. I figured it'd ruin my relationship with her. Or at least, make her think I was even weirder than she already knew I was. So I kept it to myself and, though much of my preteen years, spent a lot of time with her as well as the other kids in my village. They picked on me a lot, but it was never anything too severe. I was the scrawny punching bag, but they still invited me to do things with them. But mostly I just tried to play with Astrid. She didn't mind, since I could make her laugh. She liked my stories and drawings, too." I nonchalantly looked into the sky as I continued. "We were young when I had my first real memory of her. Five or six, maybe less. She'd just laughed really hard at something I'd said, and that's when I realized how much I cared about her. Back then, the feelings didn't bother me, since we were so close. Very close, from what I can remember. And to me, memories mean a lot." The nostalgic grin that had etched its way onto my face quickly vanished, and so did the smile on Toothless' lips.
"Because sometimes that's all you have left of a person." I threw the remainder of the fish into the fire, having eaten my fill.
"When I was eight, my mother was killed during a raid. I remember her being a tough woman. I also remember hearing it took four dragons at once to finally take her down. I don't really remember much from that night, other than passing out from shock while I was sharpening a sword in Gobber's forge. That might've been when I got this scar on my chin, though I can't recall." I scratched the area in question. "After that, everything went downhill." I sighed and Toothless crooned at me. "It's okay, bud. Really. I may be an outcast hiding in plain sight without a single friend in the entire village, but I have you. And that's all that matters to me now. Even though I can't ignore the past, and how much it hurts knowing that my own flesh and blood are almost disgusted with my existence, and yet, a dragon, a creature I was always told felt nothing but blind rage, can show me more love and compassion than I've been given since I lost my mother." Toothless' tail wrapped around me as he blasted the fire pit again, giving us some more warmth. It was only then I realized I was shivering. Or was it shaking? I couldn't tell. Then I noticed a wet spot on my journal, even though it wasn't raining.
With another sigh, I'd realized I was crying again. I hadn't even noticed... Sometimes, it just happens. But with Toothless around, its been happening less and less. That emotional hole in my heart is vanishing. And it's all thanks to this magnificent creature who cares for me more than my own tribe. More than Astrid ever could. Probably even more than my father, not that it would surprise me. I was always a disappointment with him.
"It all really did start after my mother died. Everyone was in shock, but instead of grieving it seemed to have thrown my peers' motivations into overdrive. Fishlegs learned everything to know about killing dragons and started learning how to use a hammer. Snotout started training with his dad every day. Astrid, well, she'd always practiced with her axe, but the death of her surrogate aunt seemed to enrage her. The twins went from roughhousing to learning how to fight. I was the only one who lagged behind, and it wasn't just because of my mother's death. I was just too weak to begin with, and too smart for my own good." Toothless grunted and smacked me with one of his earflaps. He never did like hearing me talk down about myself. "Sorry, bud. But in a way it's true. Most of my contraptions backfired and wound up hurting someone or damaging buildings. No one really gave me a hard time about it the first time. After that, though, I was condemned from building anything else. Of course, that didn't exactly stop me, because no one ever really bothered to watch what I was doing, so they never found out." I sighed again, my thoughts wandering, as they always did, to Astrid.
"The night mom died Astrid was the first person to find me. Gobber had run out when he'd heard my father screaming bloody rage, knowing immediately something terrible had happened. Apparently he didn't even notice me pass out when I realized why my father was screaming. I came to with Astrid leaning over me, shaking me awake. She consoled me, of course. They all did. Even Ruffnut and Tuffnut tried to help me that night, even though all they'd ever done when we were kids was shove me around. That's the only nice thing they've actually ever done for me. Them or Snotlout. In fact, my mother dying was the last time anyone my age would care about my feelings, except Astrid. But she slowly drifted away when she realized I was weak. She always had a habit of distancing herself from anything that could make her look imperfect. And that included me." I sat in silence for a few moments as I regrouped my thoughts. "She told me... She told me a few days ago, that she hated me. Absolutely and unconditionally despised me. I can't even begin to tell you what that did to me. I'm just lucky that the two of us became friends so quickly, because I was completely dead on the inside after she told me that." I scratched Toothless' head and he nuzzled me some more.
"What made it so much worse is that the day she told me that was on the anniversary of my mother's passing into Valhalla. I didn't bother mentioning it to her; If the girl I remembered her being is still in there somewhere, I didn't want to make her feel sad." Toothless glared at me, and I knew why. I was always too nice; always cared more about the feelings of others rather than my own.
"I know, I know. I really should stop moping around. I can fly now, thanks to you. And that makes me feel happier than I've ever felt in my life. Speaking of which, Toothless, do you want to get into the air? It's a beautiful day and I figured we could try freefalling again after checking to see if my dad's Scout boat is on its way back from Helheim's Gate." I stood up and stretched, walking over to the little cave I had turned into a small den. Pulling out the necessary equipment, I made my way back to Toothless.
"You know, I'm really going to miss sleeping out here with you at night, bud. It's much more comforting than my own house, but I know how my father gets when I'm out past sundown. But since he hasn't been here and no one really ever checks on me it hasn't been much of an issue," I said, buckling the last piece of the riding tack into place, "not like anyone cares."
"Then you shouldn't care, either." I whipped around when I heard that. I could have sworn I'd heard a voice not unlike my father's, booming and strong, but with a certain tenderness to it. Toothless and I were still the only ones in the cove.
"Well... Lets just go, Toothless. I think I'm losing my mind. Hearing voices. I did have some trouble sleeping last night... Maybe I'm hallucinating a little. A nice, long flight should take my mind off of things." Toothless smiled at me and beckoned to the skies. With a nod, I hopped into the saddle and we were off like lightning.
A/N: Thanks to user Ferdoos for grammatical suggestions.